News & Updates - June 2023

Check out the Policy Advisory Committee's monthly column, "News & Updates," rounding up news and articles of importance to writers.


A.I. Ongoing News

The Authors Guild Adds AI Clauses to Model Contracts

View model trade book contract:

Those Fancy Large Language Models Were Trained on eBooks from Smashwords, Without Permission

From Publishers Lunch

"With the avalanche of interest in generative AI and the large language models they are trained on, stories have resurfaced showing the process’s dirty roots. As shown in a 2021 working paper authored by Jack Bandy and Nicholas Vincent, OpenAI, Google’s BERT and variants, and many other foundational LLMs all have 'documentation debt' to BookCorpus, 'a popular text dataset for training large language models.'

"Compiled in 2014 by researchers at the University of Toronto and MIT, BookCorpus should have been called Stolen from Smashwords. The researchers apparently scraped posted, self-published ebooks posted by Smashwords that were being offered to read for free—even though doing so violated the terms of service. Adding insult to injury, the original researchers who compiled BookCorpus claimed in their research paper, 'These are free books written by yet unpublished authors,' not recognizing that the authors had self-published, and presumably further rationalizing why they gave no thought to intellectual property rights."

To read more:


Adult Fiction on the Rise

In a world full of negativity, adult fiction rose to become largest segment in publishing. We encourage you to keep writing.

Read more about the sales breakdown here:

Authors Guild Updates Statement on New Leaf Literary

From Publishers Lunch

"The Author’s Guild met with New Leaf Literary & Media to discuss the transition for their clients affected by Jordan Hamessley’s abrupt departure. Twenty-seven of Hamessley’s 45 clients were let go from the agency, while 18 were offered new agents. The AG writes in a statement, 'New Leaf’s leadership has assured us that they have been addressing affected authors’ concerns and will continue to do so.'

"The agency has committed to a number of courses of action for active clients. Authors with books on submission can choose to have New Leaf pull the project “or to continue with the submission process with New Leaf managing it until a new agent steps in.' Meanwhile, authors with deals under negotiation 'may choose to have New Leaf continue representation through another New Leaf agent or to take over negotiations themselves or through a lawyer or new agent.'

"Finally, for closed deals or pending contracts, 'New Leaf will either negotiate and administer the contract, hand it over to a new agent, or, if the author prefers, let the author take over negotiation.'

"They also write that New Leaf was unaware of some authors with books on submission, and 'thus did not offer to continue the submission process, but that it has since reached out to those authors with the option to do so.'”

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Scribe Employees Launch “Petition for Financial Justice”

From Publishers Lunch

"Following sweeping layoffs and announcement of an Article 9 sale at Scribe Media, some of the remaining employees have launched a 'Petition for Financial Justice' demanding severance and other benefits for their 87 fired colleagues. Notably, the petitioners assert that, 'There was no severance pay for the employees who were laid off, and all benefits and tech access were immediately cut.'

"They write, 'As the remaining dedicated crew members of Scribe Media, we prioritize the welfare of our laid-off colleagues. Therefore, we firmly demand that all proceeds from the sale of Scribe Media be exclusively allocated to ensure financial justice for those individuals who played a crucial role in the company’s past achievements.' The company has not yet responded to PL’s queries about the petition."

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Time for Romance - Buzz Book 2023

From Publishers Lunch

"Following the recently-published Buzz Books 2023: Fall/Winter sampler, our Buzz Books 2023: Romance collection returns for its eighth year. Buzz Books 2023: Romance is available now, with 14 exclusive pre-publication excerpts.

"You can register for the virtual Buzz Books Romance Editors Panel on Wednesday, June 7, 2023, at 6:00 p.m. ET."

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Bertelsmann CEO “Seeking to Promote Understanding of AI”

From Publishers Lunch

"Bertelsman ceo Thomas Rabe told the Financial Times that, for creative industries, generative AI could be 'very positive provided we…understand its potential and threats.'

"Overall, he sees the technology as 'on balance . . . probably more of an opportunity.' For example, 'He said there were even opportunities for authors to augment their output by feeding software with their previous output to generate new content.' Rabe added, 'If it’s your content, for which you own the copyright, and then you use it to train the software, you can in theory generate content like never before,' he said. Plus, 'Rabe also argued that a proliferation of AI-generated books and articles of varying quality would increase the value of works from respected sources.'

"He also used ChatGPT in preparation for a 'staff event' at PRH in Munich. 'I asked ChatGPT what the impact of ChatGPT or generative AI is on publishing. It prepared a phenomenal text. Frankly, it was pretty detailed and to the point,' he told the FT.

"Still, he said the company’s legal team is investigating how using existing works by creators to train AI models — as in the case of self-published works from Smashwords being scraped–'could be a copyright infringement.'”

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